How much do you know about Irish whiskey?
If it’s not much, that’s not surprising, since the industry has come back from what some termed ‘the edge of extinction’ on the international market. In 2015, the Irish Whiskey Association launched a major marketing and public relations effort to change this, to work on repeating the success of the Scottish Whiskey industry in increasing market share outside of their country.
Before my trip to Ireland for TBEX Europe in Killarney, my knowledge was limited to Jameson’s and Bushmill’s whiskey, both of which I liked. Over my eight- day trip, I sampled many, and left with a list of spirits I sincerely hope I can buy at home.
If you live in the United States, here are some statistics on Irish Whiskey in the American market that might surprise you:
Irish whiskey has been the fastest-growing spirit in the country, with sales soaring over the last 15 years. Consider that in 2002, just 434,000 cases were sold in the United States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group.
By 2016, that number had reached more than 3.8 million cases, growing by almost 19 percent in that year alone, an astounding growth rate that was nearly three times that of the next highest category, American whiskey, at 6.8 percent, according to the council.
I enjoyed exploring Irish whiskeys on this trip. We had Teeling’s Single Grain on our first evening, and loved the smooth quality of it, which led us to Celtic Whiskey Shop to buy a bottle to enjoy while in Dublin.
While there, we enjoyed tasting Writer’s Tears (Copper Pot), Knappogue Castle 16 year, and Teeling’s Brabazon — and realized how much tasting was in front of us to even start to grasp all of the creative things distilleries are doing in Ireland. Some of the techniques that make each whiskey so different would be decisions about the type of casks to use in the aging process — some might be a particular type of oak, and others are being aged in sherry or madeira casks, producing a great variety of flavors.
The staff at the Celtic Whiskey Shop were knowledgeable and friendly, and we left with a note introducing us to the staff in Killarney, where the Celtic Whiskey people also have a wonderful bar and restaurant.
At the Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder in Killarney, you’ll find over 800 Irish whiskeys, more that 1,400 whiskeys overall, making it the largest collection of Irish whiskey in the world, and the largest overall collection of whiskey in Ireland. Lord, what a beautiful thing . . .
And to top it off — they have a great kitchen that serves a variety of small plates and main dishes that are outstanding tasting options with their whiskeys.
We chose the Irish Favourites flight: Jameson’s Redbreast 12 year, Writer’s Tears (Copper Pot), Tyrconnell 10 year old Madeira Cask, and Connemara 12 year old (a peated whiskey). It was all good, but Pat came away with Writer’s Tears as her continued top choice, and I favored the Connemara. I found the smoky flavor of the Connemara on top of the fruity notes in the whiskey really wonderful, and like nothing I’ve ever had before — very different from the peaty whiskeys of Scotland.
So, if you don’t know much about Irish Whiskey, you have some delightful tasting ahead of you — what are you waiting for? Get out there and get on it!
The sun’s over the yard arm somewhere . . .
If you’re interested in hearing the interview with Bernard Walsh on the Irish Whiskey Industry, you find it here:
Additionally, this is an outstanding article on the overview of the renaissance in Irish Whiskey: